Just-released data from the Georgia Department of Labor is being spun positively because the state’s official unemployment rate has slipped to 10.0% for March; it was 10.2% last month after peaking at 10.4% late in 2010.
Don’t be fooled by the positive spin. With the state’s population apparently increasing and with only 11,500 more jobs this March compared to last March (about 0.3% growth), the only way for the unemployment rate to fall that much is for tens of thousands more Georgians to leave the labor force.
The Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham, and Bryan counties) actually lost 100 jobs compared to March 2010. We’re still about 9% below the number of jobs we had at the pre-recession peak. Data for initial claims for unemployment insurance indicates fewer folks are getting fired (the #s are down 27% statewide from a year ago and down 17% in the Savannah MSA), but the levels are still far worse than a few years ago.
Yes, employment is considered a lagging indicator of an economic recovery, but with lower workforce participation and with so few jobs being added, we should be concerned. The state’s revenue data indicates that economic activity in the state has rebounded smartly from its lows, which makes it all the more worrisome that we are not seeing more job creation and that we saw the Georgia legislature soldier through its 40 days while doing essentially nothing that would spur job growth in the state.